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By | John Oates 3rd November 2009 09:58

Big business bullies EU into open source U-turn

Definition replaced with dubious vagueness

The European Union has long promoted open source software, but it seems that years of expensive lobbying by big software companies has finally worn down the bureaucrats' resistance.

The latest version of the European Interoperability Framework - which aims to offer governments and businesses guidance on using open source software - has substantially weakened its definition of what open source is. This follows years of lobbying by the BSA, representing multinational, and substantially closed-source, companies.

The original EIF gave a pretty stern definition of open source: "The standard is adopted and will be maintained by a not-for-profit organisation, and its ongoing development occurs on the basis of an open decision-making procedure available to all interested parties."

But version 2 provides a waffly, vague definition. It says: "Within the context of the EIF, openness is the willingness of persons, organisations or other members of a community of interest to share knowledge and to stimulate debate within that community of interest, having as ultimate goal the advancement of knowledge and the use thereof to solve relevant problems."

There is more gumble about openness being part of a spectrum. Then this: "While there is a correlation between openness and interoperability, it is also true that interoperability can be obtained without openness, for example via homogeneity of the ICT systems, which implies that all partners use, or agree to use, the same solution to implement a European Public Service."

So instead of an explicit promotion of open source, with a tough definition of exactly what that means, we now have a hopelessly vague description of open source followed by an even more useless definition of interoperability.

Hat tip to Computerworld for spotting the leaks.

There has long been quite active promotion of open source software in Europe. Back in 2008 Neelie Kroes said: “I know a smart business decision when I see one – choosing open standards is a very smart business decision indeed. No citizen or company should be forced or encouraged to choose a closed technology over an open one.”

The European Commission also provided seed funding for an open source quality checker to help companies and businesses choose open source software. It has been seen as a way to encourage the "ecosystem" of European developers and integrators. ®

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